I might have started the field season a little too early

Last year, I started the field season as soon as the university spring semester ended, because my field assistants were undergraduates and needed to take their finals before heading off into the mountains. That turned out to be too late, as we found that some of the juncos had started breeding without us. So this year I found some awesome non-undergraduate volunteers and went out earlier.

But I might have started a little too early.

My tent, our first morning in the field.

My tent, our first morning in the field.

We’d known it was going to rain, and I thought it had – a particularly light-sounding rain pattering on my tent throughout the night. When I woke up I thought my tent had been covered in seeds washed loose by the rain. Then I stuck my head outside.

In fact it was better than rain: drier, and still permitting us to boil water for breakfast.

Our stoves boiling water for breakfast.

Our stoves boiling water for breakfast.

And prettier, too.

tooearly_snow

tooearly_snow2

But – wisely – the juncos appeared to not have breeding on their minds at this site yet.

At another site the snow was even thicker.

tooearly_Alpine2

A picnic table entirely covered in snow, with chickaree tracks.

A picnic table entirely covered in snow, with chickaree tracks.

Chickaree tracks showing the individual toes.

Chickaree tracks showing the individual toes.

The juncos there had nevertheless decided it was spring, and were singing.

Singing junco

Singing junco (center of the photo, look for the black head with the light bill)

(I only brought my macro lens into the field, so my photos of distant juncos aren’t great.)

Another junco

Another junco (center of the photo, look for the white breast and the white-outside, black-inside triangle of the tail)

We even saw some familiar faces! Or, familiar legs, since it’s by their leg bands that we identify them.

RABO, a male we banded last last (in the top shadow), with an unbanded junco who may be his mate (bottom shadow)

RABO, a male we banded last year (in the top shadow), with an unbanded junco who may be his mate (bottom shadow)

At the site where we were camped, we saw KARL, a junco we banded last year who was king of the campground: no matter where you tried to lure in juncos with playback, you only got KARL responding. We’ll see if he’s king of the campground this year too.

KARL, when we banded him last year.

KARL, when we banded him last year.

A lower site was sufficiently un-snowy that we were able to mist net. We got to say hello again to MMOA from last year:

MMOA, this year

MMOA, this year

And to KASS:

KASS in 2013

KASS in 2013

KASS in 2014

KASS in 2014

We tried to say a personal hello to BOGA, but for some reason he didn’t want to participate. He seemed to have a mate, so hopefully we’ll be finding a nest of his soon.

BOGA in 2013

BOGA in 2013

And we banded a few new birds, too.

First banded bird of Field Season 2014: male SE-A

First banded bird of Field Season 2014: male SE-A

On our next field outing I’m hoping to see more old friends, and a little less snow.

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4 thoughts on “I might have started the field season a little too early

    • We went to lower-down sites where it wasn’t snowing, and the midafternoon sun warmed everything up nicely. You’re quite right, and I’m always careful not to net if it’s even marginally cold.

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